Lisa Vroman

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Lisa Vroman

Orinda Theatre, Orinda, CA, September 22, 2019

Reviewed by Steve Murray for Cabaret Scenes

Lisa Vroman

Opening night of the third season of Live at the Orinda series meant a lot to producer Michael Williams, who had spotlighted this special talent when the series originated, but had to wait for just the right moment for the stars to align. It was well worth the wait to see and hear the exquisite talents of Lisa Vroman, a soprano of unequaled quality who possessed both the style and the wit of a seasoned stage performer.

Well known to Bay Area fans from her record-breaking run as Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera, Vroman has had a long stage career, including her debut in Aspects of Love, Les Misérables, Hey Mr. Producer, Sweeney Todd, Oklahoma!, Three Penny Opera, and the soprano classics The Sound of Music, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Carousel, and Camelot. Quite the pedigree, which has kept Vroman before the public eye for decades.

Backed by music director Joan Cifarelli, Vroman performed her characteristic mashups, blending two tunes not normally associated with each other. For example, “The Trolley Song” with “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” with “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top.” A crowd favorite is her combination of West Side Story’s cheery “I Feel Pretty” with Charles-Francis Gounod’s famous aria “The Jewel Song” from Faust, where both women revel in beauty. Vroman floated through a sublime version of “Take of My Solitude,” a William Butler Yeats poem set to music by composer Tom Megan for his musical A Vision—Yeats in the Afterlife.

Vroman’s voice has grown more solid and more burnished with age, and she still maintins its impeccable control and phrasing. She makes it all seem effortless, which belies the skill and talent required to support that voice.

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Case in point is her lovely rendition of Marvin Hamlisch and Craig Carnelia’s “That’s How I Say Goodbye,” which was cut from the musical Sweet Smell of Success, or the touching “I Won’t Mind” (music by Jeff Blumenkrantz, lyrics by Annie Kessler and Libby Saines) written for an unfinished musical called The Other Franklin. The song speaks to the desperation of wanting a child but ultimately being unable to bear children.

Vroman has great stage presence, gained from her many years trotting the boards.

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Her banter is both informative and funny at times. She brought tenor Martin Rojas-Dietrich onstage to recreate a famous blooper scene from her long run in Phantom where her sick co-star fell through a trap door leaving her to sing a duet by herself. With her encore of David Freidman’s quiet lullaby, “I’ll Be Here with You,” Vroman had the audience eating out of her hands. Her style is uncomplicated, clear and emotional, and works its way into the very fiber of your soul.

Steve Murray

Always interested in the arts, Steve was encouraged to begin producing and, in 1998, staged four, one-man vehicles starring San Francisco's most gifted performers. In 1999, he began the Viva Variety series, a live stage show with a threefold mission to highlight, support, and encourage gay and gay-friendly art in all the performance forms, to entertain and document the shows, and to contribute to the community by donating proceeds to local non-profits. The shows utilized the old variety show style popularized by his childhood idol Ed Sullivan. He’s produced over 150 successful shows, including parodies of Bette Davis’s gothic melodramedy Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte and Joan Crawford’s very awful Trog. He joined Cabaret Scenes 2007 and enjoys the writing and relationships he’s built with very talented performers.